Kandy, Media and Communications, Peace and Conflict

A Fresh Solution to the National Question

A few days back, a big poster published by one called Kosgoda Gnanaseeha Thero (B.A. Honors) of Pahingamuwa Gangarama temple could be seen pasted in some places in Kandy area. Its headline was “Solution to the National Question in Sri Lanka- Evict Three Million Aliens”. It was so descriptive that it looked like a whole chapter of a handbook of patriotism than a normal poster. Therefore, only certain sections are quoted here, as would be necessary to understand its basic tenets.

“We urge the UNO to evict three million aliens from Sri Lanka as an effective measure to prevent the conspiracy of exterminating the Sinhala race. The present war, the scarcity of food, obstructing development projects, murdering Sinhala leaders, anti-Buddhist campaigns led by Marxist movements, political instability, depriving Sinhalese of land, employment and business opportunities, mud slinging against Sinhalese throughout the world, the conspiracy to hatch an alien religious state in Sri Lanka, underworld gangs, promoting liquor, gambling and smoking, encouraging corruption and rackets, so-called campaigns of human rights, media and peace- are all happened to be direct consequences of alien forces”.

This, he says, is a publicity poster of a formal petition later to be signed by some thousand intellectuals, like Prof. Mangala Ilangasinghe, Prof. Abhaya Ariyasinghe, Prof. B.K.Basnayaka, Prof. Robert P. Liyanage, Prof. H.M.Moratuwegama, Prof. A.A.Abhayasinghe, Prof. H.T.Basnayaka, Dr. Piyasena Dissanayaka, Lecturer Laksman Watawana and Dr.Bandula Siriwardene.

As a live example of the pathological state of our national ailment this is an ideal document to refute the stance of those who disclaim the existence of any national or ethnic question in Sri Lanka.

This monk is concerned only about the Sinhala leaders getting killed. Laksman Kadiragamar and T.A. Amirthalingam allegedly killed by the same people are not to be grieved. Others like Raviraj, a charismatic democratic leader and an MP of the Tamil people allegedly killed by the government-affiliated paramilitary groups are unimportant, reason being their non-Sinhala origins. The apparent conflict between this racial compassion of a Buddhist monk and the universal value of all lives in true Buddhism is astounding, where nothing but the Gouthama Buddha’s very doctrine itself is at peril. Therefore, to save not only race but also Buddhism, how many more millions would be liable to be evicted from this holy land warrants some fresh calculation, indeed!

Though the practice of deporting citizens from a country of origin was one of the punishments meted out to traitors or criminal elements in the period of ancient kingdoms, modern world hardly resorts to that practice anymore for the simple reason that no other country can be expected to receive those banished. Prince Vijaya and his clan of cohorts, great forefathers of our race were such people deported from India, some two and half millennia ago, according to legend. A fairly contemporary case in point was the edict of Idi Amin, the psycho pathetic former leader of Uganda to deport some tens of thousands of Indians from his country for the sin of one Indian lady not willing to sleep with him. However much he was insane in his own way, his decision affected only those Indians who were not Ugandan citizens, whereas our (B.A. Honors) priest’s vengeful wrath encompasses his own citizens, most probably those who may have lived in this country from the time of Vijaya.

When a mad man is asleep his insanity is hardly visible. But, once he is awake he is unable to keep his mouth shut thereby exposing his derailed state of mind to the whole world. It is from the commandments of this monk that we came to know that the UNO role is also comprised of petty activities like the monitoring of liquor consumption and gambling in Sri Lanka as well! Not only that, a world body that practically failed in arresting alien forces from invading a sovereign state called Iraq is empowered to evict three million people from Sri Lanka, this erudite monk faithfully preaches.

Quoting from two dictionaries he invites us to have a proper understanding as to who would be qualified as aliens:

1.The Oxford Dictionary- NATION (n) community of people of mainly common descent, language, history.
2. Chambers Dictionary- NATION (n) a body of people marked off by common descent, language, culture or historical tradition.

Well, in the first place this is not a definition of aliens or non-nationals as you may see, but of a Nation. Anyway, by way of deduction (while keeping in mind the broad political implications of the term, nation) the most probable meaning of a non-national could be a person not belonging to the aforesaid categories, leaving only foreign nationals like tourists and other immigrants, temporarily resident in the country as aliens. But if this is all our monk is worried about, the best way to address that problem is to inform our Board of Investment, which has some fresh experience in revoking the work permit of a foreign national at Sri Lankan Airlines! Yet, one can hardly believe that there are 3 million foreigners of this type in Sri Lanka, a number nearing one sixth of our population.

He further urges the UNO to evict these 3 million from Sri Lanka and settle them down in, “Norway, Canada, Australia, US or any other place in the world”. When a newly wed husband is not satisfied with the bride, he takes her back not to other people’s houses but to her parent’s home. By what whimsical logic that this priest could be possibly wishing to dump these people in “any other place in the world” is incomprehensible, unless the whole world is to be held responsible directly or indirectly for our own predicament.

Then he goes on to assess the economic gains by way of deporting these people. Three million loaves of bread and one million kilos of rice a day, in addition to business and employment opportunities and land and health sector savings that can be used for the welfare of the true Sinhala Buddhist people in the country are the immediate benefits.

Finally, he refers to the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution as historical precedents where he thinks the national question had been resolved once and for all in 1789 and 1917. As for the Bolshevik Revolution, we are at a loss to reconcile his scathing attack at the beginning of the poster on “anti-Buddhist campaigns led by Marxist movements” with this last minute favorable lesson drawn from the annals of the Bolshevik Revolution.

However, for the benefit of his so-called professorial advisers this much has to be added as an appendix. It is true that the formal concept of Nation State was originated with the French Revolution. But that Revolution had got nothing to do with what we call a national question of ethnic origin, which we witness in Sri Lanka, and which this Thero also has in his mind when pointing an accusing finger to alien elements amongst us.

In fact, the Bolshevik Revolution did have a proper national question and a Commissar for Nationalities as well, by the name of Joseph Stalin who ruthlessly massacred thousands of Bolshevik cadres in Georgia to suppress a national revolt while Lenin was in his sick bed. Having come to the knowledge of this unhappy incident after recuperation, Lenin was swift in categorically condemning this irresponsible and brutal act of Stalin and making an apology for not intervening himself at the proper moment to avoid that catastrophe. (For further reference one can read Lenin’s Last Testament).

However, the fact that after seventy years of Bolshevik Revolution former Soviet Union was fated to be split into some 15 odd separate states on ethnic lines is common knowledge today. Whatever the case may be, in none of these revolutions no one has ever thought even in a daydream of deporting one sixth of its population as a viable solution to the National Question, apé hamuduruwané!